Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 21, 2014

Non-retaliation policy recommended

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The policy committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education has recommended a non-retaliation policy be approved by the full board, though the Tennessee School Boards Association had told the committee such a policy wasn't necessary.

"If stuff is out there that needs to be known, I want to make it as easy for those folks to give us the information to be able to resolve whatever issues there might be," said Josh Stone, 4th District representative. "Even if it's against the advice of TSBA, if adding this policy makes that situation easier or more accessible...if things are going on that need to be told, they need to know they're not going to be retaliated against."

The proposed policy states, "Retaliation against a member of the Cumberland County School community for making a good faith report of potential legal or policy violations is prohibited and will not be tolerated." It also provides a procedure for submitting a written complaint regarding retaliation, and provides that reports that are "knowingly false, made with malicious intent, or with reckless disregard for, or willful ignorance of the facts that would disprove the allegation made are not good-faith reports." An employee making a knowingly false accusation would be subject to disciplinary action.

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, said TSBA had felt it was unnecessary to add such a policy as non-retaliation rights were covered under federal law, which supersedes school policy.

Stone said, "I think there would be benefit for it to be in the policy manual, even if it is in federal law...Maybe this would be some reassurance to employees that, not only are they protected by federal law, they're protected by our policy. We're going to stand behind them, too."

Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, agreed the policy was needed.

"Don't you think it sends a message that we do care if there is something going on?" Brewer asked. "If somebody needs to be told, you're going to be protected. I know there are laws, but still, I think it would help if employees know that."

The committee also recommended a change to policy 3.3001, use of cellular phones. The change requires employees needing to use a cell phone while driving a school vehicle to pull over to a safe location.